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Canadian Jewish officials compile census data

TORONTO, July 8 (JTA) — Jewish officials hope that newly released census data will give them a more comprehensive picture of the Canadian Jewish community, helping them prepare better for the community’s future needs. UIA Federations Canada, the umbrella organization for 11 federated Jewish communities across the country, has paid about $300,000 to the federal census office, Statistics Canada, for the detailed numbers on the size, shape, age and other variables for communities across Canada. Dubbed the National Jewish Demographic Study, the project constitutes “the largest comprehensive demographic study ever undertaken of the Jewish community in Canada,” according to research coordinator Charles Shahar. Unlike the 2000 U.S. census, the 2001 Canadian census asked citizens to identify both their religion and ethnic background. The two variables will allow demographers to determine the number of Jews with greater accuracy, Shahar said. “Basically we’re going to be looking at about 150 small-, medium- and large-sized communities across Canada, from St. John, Newfoundland to Nanaimo on Vancouver Island, British Columbia,” he said. Shahar, who usually does demographic studies and surveys for the Jewish community of Montreal, plans to compile about a dozen reports in the coming year based on census information he is scheduled to receive in four packages between now and October. The data will enable him to compile statistics on everything from whether Jews are living singly or in family units, their marital status and economic brackets, their intermarriage rate and even their level of affiliation in the community. It also will allow him to determine where are the most concentrated populations of Jews and where the “dependency ratio” of seniors and children to adults is highest, indicating a greater need for social services. Figures from the 2001 census provide a much more accurate planning tool than those obtained in the previous full census in 1991, said Perry Romberg, director of planning and community services for UIA Federations. “We’re going to be doing several variant studies of our community regarding the numbers of elderly, people living in poverty, single-parent families, Holocaust survivors and many other factors,” Romberg said. In the 2001 census, 348,605 Canadians identified themselves as Jewish by ethnicity and 329,995 as Jewish by religion. According to Shahar, the numbers indicate a total of 370,520 Jews in the country, reflecting a growth rate of 4 percent in the population since 1991. Overall, that growth “has not been spectacular” when compared to the 129 percent rise in Canada’s Muslim community and the 89 percent rise in its Hindu community, Shahar said, noting that most of those communities’ gains came from immigration. Roughly three-quarters of Canada’s Jews are concentrated in Toronto and Montreal — 48 percent in Toronto and 25 percent in Montreal — the figures show. While the Toronto community increased in number by about 10 percent since 1991 to 179,100, Montreal dropped 8 percent to 92,970. Historically speaking, these figures represent a seismic shift in Canadian Jewry. Until the mid-1970s, when the number of Jews in Montreal peaked at about 115,000, the Montreal community had dominated national Jewish life for some two centuries. By mid-decade, Toronto will have twice the Jewish population of Montreal, Shahar predicted. “There’s been a shift, there’s no doubt, but the Montreal community is very close-knit and it’s also more diversified,” he said. “Montreal remains the community with the highest quality of Jewish life in America, and it consistently ranks at the top or next to the top in factors like synagogue membership, adherence to traditions, closeness to Israel, the number of children getting Jewish education, and Jewish volunteerism and philanthropy per capita,” he said. “While the population has experienced some decline, these factors also have to be taken into consideration.” Other preliminary findings show growth exceeding 16 percent for the Jewish communities of both Vancouver (22,585) and Ottawa (13,450). Likewise, the Calgary community grew by 11 percent to 7,950, and the Halifax community grew by 13 percent to 1,985. The other five federated communities registered varying net losses. The census counted 14,760 Jews in Winnipeg, Manitoba; 4,925 in Edmonton, Alberta; and 4,675 in Hamilton, 2,295 in London, and 1,525 in Windsor, Ontario. It also showed 24,305 Jews in other areas of the country. The figures indicate that the Jewish population is significantly older than the national average. The median age among Jews is 41.5 years, compared to 37 for the population as a whole. That statistic has ramifications for such variables as the number of spaces to plan for in Jewish homes for the aged and other long-term care facilities. The figures also show the continued decline of many small-town Jewish communities across the country, a trend underway for at least half a century.

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